A Bill recently introduced into the Queensland Parliament (ess note 1) has highlighted the need for Australia to commit to better protecting firefighters, according to LifeInsuranceDirect.com.au.
“While the Bill is a step in the right direction, we don’t believe it goes far enough in helping to protect firefighters and their families,” said LifeInsuranceDirect.com.au CEO, Russell Cain. “Firefighters put their lives on the line for us and they deserve better.”
The Bill, which would change the Workers Compensation Act, seeks to put in place a qualifying period a professional firefighter would have to work as a firefighter before becoming eligible for a workers compensation cancer claim. Volunteer firefighters would also need to attend 150 fire events in order to claim. The Queensland Liberal National Party has put forward an opposing Bill which would cover all firefighters for the 12 listed cancer conditions included in the Bill, regardless of years of service or number of fire events attended.
The Bill follows on the heels of a national Monash University study of over 230,000 firefighters, released in December last year (see note 2), which found higher rates of some cancers in firefighters than in the general population.
“Australia has an obligation to ensure that our firefighters, who face greater health risks – sometimes for years after they stop working as firefighters, according to the Monash study – are adequately covered,” Mr Cain said.
If the Government is unable or unwilling to protect all firefighters via the proposed workers compensation scheme, Mr Cain argued it should subsidise trauma insurance policies to ensure firefighters past and present, and their families are financially protected.
Trauma insurance (sometimes called critical illness insurance) pays a lump sum if the person insured suffers a critical illness or injury. A trauma policy usually covers a host of conditions including a large range of cancers and severe burns.
LifeInsuranceDirect.com.au researched how much it costs to buy a stand-alone trauma insurance policy for a firefighter and how much it costs to buy a trauma policy with life insurance of $500,000 added on.
“Surprisingly our research found that in general trauma policies for firefighters are no more expensive and have no more exclusions than other policies held by people working in other occupations, despite the more obvious risks,” he said.
Note 1: The Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation (Protecting Firefighters) Amendment Bill 2015
Note 2: http://www.coeh.monash.org/downloads/finalreport2014.pdf